Friday, September 9, 2011

Galley Musings

This chilly drizzly weather had me making a pot of bean soup ... and philosophizing while it simmered.

Originally Posted in the Annapolis Capital: September 9, 12:24 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

galley smcu [the galley aboard our boat]

Living on a boat inspired Ken and Nadia to a career change, as I wrote about in a previous post. Thinking a little more about their transformation made me reflect on our own. Living in a small space makes you really question, and explore, the difference between what you truly need to live a good life and what you think you need. Dan used to own a kitchen design/remodel business. In fact, that’s how he got into sailing. Not obvious, you say?

When we lived in Colorado and had the kitchen business, one of my colleagues asked if we could replace the laminate on the galley countertop of their boat, a small Catalina 24 that they sailed on summer weekends on a nearby lake. This was a small, easy job – the countertop was so small that instead of having to go to the jobsite, the colleague just took the countertop piece off and delivered it to the shop in the trunk of his car.

A few days later we returned the finished piece, and the colleague said, “Cool, thanks, what do I owe you?” Dan replied, “Well, it was such a small job, I’m almost embarrassed to bill you for it. Tell you what; this represented about 3 hours of my work. Why don’t you take me sailing on your boat for 3 hours one afternoon?”

He was totally, utterly hooked from that moment on. I like to call it the most expensive kitchen project we ever undertook.

Anyway, back to my original thought. As a certified kitchen designer, there are guidelines he tried to follow when planning rooms for clients. These guidelines suggest how much space you need for each appliance, for adjacent workspaces, and for storage. Not to minimize the work of the NKBA (National Kitchen & Bath Association), their suggestions came out of extensive research into the way Americans live, into ergonomics, and into fire and building safety codes. I find it ironic just how much we had to turn those rules on their heads when we moved aboard, though. See that rule #3 that says that the distance for each leg of the work triangle in the ideal kitchen should be more than 4 feet to less than 9 feet? Hah! In our galley, each leg of the work triangle measures just two feet. And that rule #27 about storage? It says you should have a total of 360 inches of drawer fronts in a small kitchen? We have not 360 inches, not 300 inches, but just 30 inches – two small drawers. And the guideline also says you should have 300 inches of wall cabinet shelving? We have a single-shelf 35 inch dish cabinet above the sink, and another between the range and the fridge. That’s all. Oh, okay, I managed to sneak a few extra inches for chef’s knife storage in the back of the access panel for the navigation instruments, so that’s a bonus. But then again, where a normal kitchen would have a microwave, we have the VHF marine radio. Or rule #13 about dishwasher placement? (holds up both hands and wiggles fingers – this is my dishwasher!)

Of course, guidelines that make sense on land won’t work on a sailboat, nor should they. Sailboat kitchens (a.k.a. galleys) move; land kitchens don’t, last month’s earthquake notwithstanding. Those big roomy distances between appliances that make a land kitchen a spacious and comfortable workspace would be dangerous in a seaway. When I see open space I think, wow, nothing to break your fall as you’re hurled from one side of the boat to the other. In our little galley, by contrast, it’s very reassuring to snuggle into that little two-foot space and lean against the sink while cooking on the range.

The most profound way that the whole kitchen/galley design rumination has turned my perceptions on their head, though, is the relationship of people to their world. Everything in a well-designed land kitchen is done for maximum ease and efficiency of movement for the cook. The kitchen wraps around the user in an utterly comfortable ergonomic way. Is this, perhaps, a metaphor for modern times, that we create our environment, and control and modify the world for the comfort of the human? Do humans really need that much pampering? For the land kitchen, they talk about the most convenient storage and work zone, at a height between the knees and the shoulders. On our boat, we have to bend and twist and flex to get things. The world doesn’t revolve around the human, the humans have to adapt to it, not the other way ‘round. It’s a compromise and a partnership between comfort and (marine) functionality. Just another way that life afloat keeps you humble!

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Small Home Living ... Afloat

Originally Posted in the Annapolis Capital: September 6, 10:05 am | (permalink) | (0 comments)

One Saturday afternoon last month found us at the Gangplank Tour of Boat Homes as I described in an earlier post along with 300 other people for the sold-out event. I was looking for inspiration in ideas that other liveaboards had incorporated into their boats that I could incorporate into our own; but mostly, I was looking at people. I thought the folks at Gangplank had an interesting idea in trying to educate others into their way of life, now I was curious about how it would be received. Of the people who attended, you could see some folks just got it, and were thinking yeah, I could live like this. You could see others just didn’t get it at all, and couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to live in such a small and seemingly precarious space. David and Paulette Craig came from Bowie just out of curiosity and fell into the former group. I met them aboard the Sara K, a 1972 Trojan 34-foot houseboat owned by Kenneth Gill and Nadia Ezzelarab-Gill. The Craigs commented that they were surprised that the Sara K was so bright and airy, expecting boats to be cramped and dark. They joked that after the tour, they were ready to go home and start shopping. But although I had come with expectations of people-watching the other attendees, the most fascinating story I heard that day was that of the hostess, Nadia, herself. Ken was overseas during the tour, but we later had a wonderful email exchange.

P8131159 - nadia [Nadia Ezzelarab-Gill at her desk aboard the Sara K]

One day Nadia, a lawyer, decided she had just spent far too many hours in windowless conference rooms full of other attorneys. She wanted to live somewhere with light and connection to the environment. She was perusing Craigslist when “something lit up in my heart and my head,” she said. She hadn’t really known what she was looking for, but she hadn’t expected to find a boat! She had never even been in a houseboat before, but it instantly felt right. That same evening, she introduced the idea of living on a houseboat to her husband Ken, and a week or so later she asked him, “Do you mind if I start selling and giving away the furniture?” The furniture they had was good quality, but wouldn’t be needed anymore – they were moving aboard. When Nadia came up with this crazy idea of living on a boat, Ken did not find it so crazy at all. “This would be an ideal chance for us to create ourliving space together,” he said. “It also satisfied my need to be a bit ‘alternative.’"

sara k interior 2a [Sara K interior - upper level - entry and home office. Photo provided by Nadia Ezzelarab-Gill.]

sara k interior 1a cu [Sara K interior - main level - kitchen and living. A lower level contains the sleeping area. Photo provided by Nadia Ezzelarab-Gill.]

They faced some initial challenges. They moved aboard in the middle of winter, February 15. Considering that Ken had spent 39 years in Copenhagen, and Nadia had lived in Sweden and Denmark, it seemed hard to imagine that they would complain about the cold in a Washington, DC winter. But Ken reminisced, “Our first night on the boat was one of the coldest I have ever spent! We'd spent the whole day moving and were totally whacked out so we just cleared a space in the saloon, piled all the mattresses and blankets we had on the floor and passed out fully dressed with our winter coats on and just our noses sticking out. We woke the next morning to the sight of a whole army of shivery looking seagulls marching past at eye level on the very solid looking ice! I must admit that I did have a second thought or two [about what they had gotten themselves into] then, but hey! I'd never experienced anything like this before in my life and it's amazing how a steaming cup of coffee can make even the stiffest seagull look welcoming.”

Living on a boat for a while can really make you reevaluate your perceptions of what you “need” to have a good life. After just 6 months aboard, they did more than just adapt to life afloat. The experience of living in this efficient but not cramped space inspired Nadia to consider a dramatic career change from law to designing / building very small houses. She and Ken are on the leading edge of a growing trend; almost every architectural magazine and website I’ve seen recently includes one or two very small dwellings along with the very large and elaborate ones. Reasons people give for their interest in very small houses range from spiritual/religious yearnings for simplicity, to concern for the environment and desire to minimize their environmental footprint, to finances.

Ken, a retired elementary school teacher, brings some construction skills to the planned venture – among other credentials, he’s a qualified woodwork/metalwork teacher in Denmark and says he has always loved doing things with his hands. He moved about 10 times and has lived in and owned both houses and apartments. Most of them he has renovated or improved – “not always in strict accordance to the building codes!” he admits. He has also worked as an instructor/demonstrator and volunteer at a historical/archeological research center at Lejre in Denmark, where he helped with some reconstructions of typical farm cottages from about 1850. But his involvement with the small house design idea is also philosophical. “It is very important for me to be able to physically form my living space with my own hands - to make it as I want it to be so that it becomes part of me and I of it,” he says.

Nadia loves interior decorating, designing rooms and dwellings, and creating gardens. She has found her legal career satisfying, but she realized that she was not willing to do it for another twenty or more years. “The reason we have decided to primarily design small homes is that we want to assist people in having satisfying lives, in homes that they can help design (perhaps even build), in ways that will make them love to be there, yet that are priced so that they can pay off their mortgages in 6-7 years. We want to assist people in getting out of the debt cycle, and in enjoying life at a more natural level.”

sara k table flowers [kitchen table on the Sara K. Photo by Kenneth Gill.]

In addition to the boat, they have a place in the Appalachians a few hours’ drive west of DC, in a forest half way up a mountain ridge looking east towards the Blue Ridge. Ken has a workshop downstairs and Nadia is creating a garden with her bare hands up the mountain side Their need to be a little bit alternative shows up there too. “We sleep out on the screened balcony among the tree tops,” he says.

When asked about future plans, neither of them can imagine leaving the boat - having the water and the mountain is a perfect combination, they say, and a tremendous asset in developing their small-home visions. Nadia says they get plenty of practice at smaller living, and dual use of things on the boat. “We're going to try out some of our small house designs in the back yard [of the mountain home] and live out our small dwelling dreams on D dock [at Gangplank Marina],” adds Ken.

sara k stern smcu

sara k heron sm [The Sara K in her slip at Gangplank's D-dock, and a visitor aboard! Photos by Kenneth Gill.]

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Thursday, September 1, 2011


We were lucky, Irene wasn't a non-event; but the only damage done to our boat was to our rum supply. 33-foot boat in new sturdy 50-foot slip is a story with a happy ending. We were without power for several days, but hey, we're a boat, we're used to making our own. As for the rest of the posts today:

Okay, it's kinda cheating to repost stuff from Life Afloat. Yeah, I agree. I have more photos for each of these, that didn't make it into the Capital, but at the moment we still have limited internet post-Irene, so I'll add the extra pix as soon as I can.

Irene. Wind Machine. Queen of Mean.

originally posted in the Annapolis Capital: August 29, 1:17 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)
irene navy[photo: satellite view of Irene on her way towards us; courtesy U.S. Navy]

Now, it’s calm and dry and sunny – as though Irene has used up our quota of wind and rain for the entire week (month?) in one single tantrum. Now, it’s laughing with neighbors and surveying the relative lack of damage to our boats. Now, it’s sitting in the cockpit with a cup of coffee. But only yesterday … Being on a boat in a hurricane has different worries of course than being on land for a hurricane. We’re not worried about power; we’re used to making our own – it’s not like you can run an extension cord out to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Or water; we topped up before the storm and that supply generally lasts us 3 weeks, more if we’re in careful-conservation mode. Or flooding; hey, we’re a boat after all, we’ll just float above it. Or even falling tree limbs; no trees out here. But remember I just recently posted about how being on a boat lets you be more in touch with nature, with the feel of the wind and the waves? Sometimes, we’re rather more in touch than we want!

The day Saturday started with mild winds generally building as people completed their last-minute preparations. Winds circle the eye of a hurricane counterclockwise, and the eye was predicted to pass east of us. That meant the winds would come from the northeast, then north, then northwest – pushing water out of the Bay rather than into the Bay as Isabel did in 2003. So the early, and strongest winds were on our beam. As each gust hit the boat tilted to port. Dishes shifted in lockers, and items fell from the shelf above the v-berth. We don’t heel any more than that when we’re underway sailing. And of course the wind. We have no anemometer (wind speed indicator) but we could get a pretty good feel by the sound and the feel -- the stronger the gust, the higher the volume and pitch. I began to distinguish between the sounds of moderate gusts, 30s and 40s, that made the rigging whistle, and the stronger ones, 50s and 60s, that were more of a scream. Large drops of rain were driven sideways, rattling on our windows and deck. Irene was being one noisy storm! The larger gusts set the mast to vibrating, and I kept waiting for the sickening sound of a dockline breaking. Luckily didn’t happen – of course it helped that we had 12 of them, and many were a bigger, stronger size than we use for everyday tie-up. The northeast winds continued for a long time, a bit longer than I had expected, and I began to worry. This could indicate that the eye of the storm was going to pass closer to the west – and closer to us (hence stronger winds) than expected. But finally, as the night wore on, and we wore out, the wind shifted more north. This put it on our bow, so even though it was just about as strong – and noisy – it was a bit more comfortable because we didn’t heel over as much.

We periodically left our little bubble of light and warmth and relative calm to go topside and check on the condition of dock lines that were working overtime, checking for chafe (rubbing and wear) and adjusting accordingly. It only took about 10 seconds out in the weather to be completely drenched. The wind and pelting rain were strong enough that it was almost hard to breathe when facing into it; in a worse storm than this one, we even wore a snorkel and mask to be able to see and breathe.

I’m intrigued by the various ways my liveaboard friends spent their time during the storm. Cindy scrubbed and cleaned. Dave cooked elegant gourmet meals for one. I obsessively checked storm tracks, and organized recipes. Dan polished off a 700+ page Tom Clancy novel. Here’s my theory: when it’s dark and every screaming wind gust tips the boat sideways and reminds you that there’s only a fiberglass eggshell between you and the storm’s fury, you do anything you can to create a feeling of control, of normalcy, in your little floating world.

Help me test my theory: go to Life Afloat on Facebook, or the comments section here, and post how you spent the storm. BTW, what’s with hurricanes starting with the ninth letter of the alphabet and Annapolis? We had Isabel in 2003, and the remnants of Ivan in 2004, and now Irene?

Here She Comes!

originally posted in the Annapolis Capital: August 27, 10:18 am | (permalink) | (0 comments)

hurricane satelllite [photo: satellite view of a typical hurricane. Irene is bigger!]

Our very good friend and sailing mentor in the Caribbean, David Kummerle, once told us that it takes 4 days to have a hurricane on a boat if all goes well – a day to get ready, a day to have the storm, a day to rest, and then a day to put the boat back together. And that’s if there’s no boat damage. We learned the truth of that in two previous hurricanes, Lenny in the Virgin Islands, and Isabel here in Annapolis. We’re about to test that advice again. Earlier this week we started our pre-prep. That’s my self-justifying description of spending lots of time in internet chats with my sailing buddies, and checking multiple weather sites as soon as they were updated. In addition to the biggies like Weather Underground andAccuweather and NOAA, we like the graphics on Stormpulse.

We ran through our standard list of preparations: take off the sails, dodger and bimini; double up all docklines; secure everything above deck; tie halyards away from the mast. Fuel and water tanks topped up. Then the special tricks that David taught us after surviving half a dozen big hurricanes in the tropics: making sure that our mast wasn’t directly in line with the boat next to us, so that if we started really rocking the masts wouldn’t get tangled with each other. An anchor out in case we had to get off a disintegrating dock. A ditch bag packed with our passports, medications, some cash, and other emergency stuff. Cars moved to high ground and parked away from tree limbs. Most importantly, we laid in a supply of bad movies and good wine, and then declared ourselves as ready as we can get.

The first “gift” from the storm was another reminder of how much the people are the reason I love being part of the boating community. “Can I give you a hand with that?” was the phrase heard most often on the dock, even more often than “What’s the latest forecast?” Helping each other prepare, trading tips, watching after the boats of friends who were trapped out of town … nothing like feeling very small against a common enemy to enhance our sense of togetherness.

[More later, as time in connectivity allow. Stay safe, all]

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We interrupt this hurricane prep to bring you … an earthquake???

Originally Posted in the Annapolis Capital: August 24, 1:56 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

It had been a day of checking online weather forecasts and email and chatting with friends about how to prepare our boats for the predicted arrival of Hurricane Irene – taking down canvas and doubling up docklines and looking after the boats of friends who were out of town.

I wish I could give you a unique firsthand boaters-eye-view of what it felt like to be aboard when the ground shook, but I wasn’t aboard. I was at Fitness Forum doing my regular Tuesday afternoon physical therapy session with awesome physical therapist and trainer Jen when the building started swaying. At first I assumed it was a heavy truck driving past in the elevated part of the parking lot, but as the shaking continued and got worse, we all clustered in doorframes and room corners until we were told to evacuate (I did get out of doing the last 10 minutes of my workout, though) And, all being the products of 21st century technology, we then all stood around checking our smartphones and telling each other the news: my cousin Cheryl in New York reported an earthquake, as did friends Margo in Massachusetts and Penny in North Carolina – this thing must have been HUGE! It was actually a relief to learn from USGS that it was “only” 5.8 with an epicenter near Richmond. There was a bit of confusion as our car was in the basement garage, but in a short time we were back home aboard the boat at the marina, where all looked just as it had before.

What was it like to be aboard in the marina during the earthquake? I asked Dave German, who lives aboard his CSY 37 “Equinox” a few slips away from us. “I was in the boat, at the nav station when I felt a sharp bump,” he said. “I thought someone may have run into me so I went to the cockpit, looked around and didn't see anything. Boatswain [the dog who lives aboard a neighboring boat along with his owner Ed Menegaux] barked a few times but stopped when he saw me. I waited maybe another minute and saw masts further up back creek rocking back and forth followed by masts closer to Port Annapolis. Next the pilings began to shake maybe 2-3 feet at the top and a series of waves came towards me. It lasted for about 30-40 seconds and then all was quiet again. Except for Boatswain.”

I kinda wish I could have seen that, docks and pilings swaying like palm trees … or then again, maybe not. If I’d seen it I’d probably never again be able to trust my boat to those docks and pilings in a storm – like the one coming, for example. After all the excitement, we topped up our water tanks and took the boat over to fuel up in anticipation of the hurricane, and went to a previously-planned anchor-out overnight in Whitehall Creek. Late in the evening we were rocked by a series of waves like a boat wake, but that had no discernible source, that may have been the aftershock. An invigorating sail back home this morning, and now, back to our regularly-scheduled hurricane prep.

Back Where We Belong

Originally posted in the Annapolis Capital: August 20, 7:22 am | (permalink) | (0 comments)

P8191200 back in the water

Splash! By Thursday everything that had to be done on land had been done. Thursday evening, the boatyard picked up our boat in the big travelift and we “hung in the slings” overnight. Supporting our boat at different points than the jackstands held us allowed us to paint the sections that were blocked before so that every spot on the hull was protected. It also gave us a tiny taste of motion again, and a different vantage.

Several folks asked about what it was like up there in the slings and whether it was safe? Well, actually, yes. First off, we were only inches above the ground; it’s not like we risked falling from a great height. Secondly, our support was more assured. One way that boats on jackstands can fall during hurricanes is not the wind, it’s that the rain turns the ground soft and mushy and one stand can slide out making the whole thing unbalanced. (Not that it happens often!) But in the slings, as the lift operator Gary pointed out, we had this giant structural frame around us, four steel posts. But the most telling argument to me is that during hurricanes, most of the marina owners we know – who obviously have the choice of anywhere in their marinas to put their own boats – use the slings.

P8191189 slings P8191186 big wheel

Anyway, after a pleasant night we were back in the water Friday morning, and went for our test ride with mechanic Billy. The bay was pretty and conditions were perfect for sailing <*sigh*> but sailing was not what we were after that time. We motored at various speeds with Billy checking the new installation each time, and each time he pronounced it rock steady.

Later that afternoon we were happily back in our slip and one of our marina friends, who had seen us on the hard working several times during the past week, came sailing past in their boat. “She looks better in the water!” they called out encouragingly. “She feels better in the water, too!” we shot back.

Still on the Hard, and Working Hard

Originally Posted in the Annapolis Capital: August 18, 9:15 am | (permalink) | (0 comments)

Two weeks out of the water are drawing to a close, we expect to “splash” (put the boat back into the water) on Friday … and it can’t come soon enough! The shaft and propeller are back in place, held in by a new cutlass bearing (one, exactly one, cutlass bearing this time!), the bottom and new waterline have been painted and we are literally just hanging out waiting for the paint to dry. Dan, with his more practiced technique, did the burgundy paint; I was relegated to the underwater parts. Or, as Dennis, one of the yard guys, put it, “He did the parts people would see. You did the parts fish would see.” A lot of work for the marina staff, and us, but we’re incredibly happy that its fixed, and that we’ve gotten to the root of the problem – I think this means it’s likely to stay fixed!

P8171178 painting the bottom[photo: Bottom paint is meant to repel marine growth, so it’s not likely to be too good for people, either. Note to self: Tyvek in August ain’t too great either.]

P8161168 spuds and prop[photo: Marina mechanic Scott “Spuds” Callahan reinstalling our propeller]

Although we’ve spent a lot of days with paintbrushes in hand, it hasn’t been all work. We got a break one day when marina friend Chris Rizzo offered to take us for a short evening sail on his Hunter 30 sailboat “Domingoman.” Winds were light, if our boat had been in the water there wouldn’t have been enough of a breeze to move us, but for Chris’ smaller boat it was perfect, and we glided along, serene and peaceful in the sunset. Last Saturday we were up early to put on a single coat of paint, then we took the afternoon off to attend the Boat Home Tour at Gangplank Marina while the paint dried (more about that coming in a separate post).

Our really fun break came one afternoon last week when we headed to Oxford. I was amused to realize that although I knew the way well by boat, I had never been there by car. We drove and walked the historic town, stopping for ice cream. We visited Cutts and Caseshipyard, and chatted with owner Eddie Cutts Jr, an odd conversation that was partly shipbuilding and partly life philosophy, about their unique method of restoring/building wooden boats, and mirror bright varnish, and the idea that anything worth doing is worth doing as well as you possibly can. The highlight of our getaway though, was a rather unlikely party at Oxford Inn.

Given our lifestyle and the title of this blog, you would think any christening ceremony we attended would be for the launch of a boat, right? Not this time – this time was all about a car. Not just any car – an impeccably restored London taxicab born the same year as my kid brother Brian, 1958. I’m all about *any* form of transportation, and Oxford is a town that is proud of its British history and will throw a party for any reason, the quirkier the better. So there we were… and what a fun party it was. Elegant appetizers (I was tempted by the ceviche served in ceramic spoons, but my far and away favorite was the shotglass of gazpacho) were just the backdrop for chatting with absolutely fascinating people. Here’s what the local paper said about it. There was even a signature drink created just for the occasion appropriately named the “Black Cab.” The whole thing was a little frustrating irony for me personally, though. The classic taxi is intended to pick you up at your marina if you’re going out to dinner at Pope’s Tavern (attached to the Oxford Inn). And here I was, aching for a ride in this thing -- I remember riding in taxis just like it when I visited London with my parents and brother in 1969 -- but for the first time in my life I was in Oxford by car instead of by boat!

P1010344 dinner table at oxford inn[photo: After the boatyard grime, an elegant table is doubly appealing. Especially when, shortly after I took the photo, we sat down to delicious rockfish and impossibly fresh “Maryland succotash” with corn and limas and tiny grape tomatoes.]

P1010294 the taxi arrives[photo: The taxi! And an excuse to go back, by boat next time, and get a ride from a marina to go to dinner. And we’ll certainly go back; the food and company was awesome!]

P1010302 dan lisa and the taxi[photo: owner Dan Zimbelman and owner/chef Lisa MacDougal ... and of course, the taxi, the real star of the party]

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Taking Risks

(originally posted: July 26, 9:43 am | (permalink) | (0 comments)

red sails in fog [photo: s/v Elysium heads toward a new horizon]

Earlier this month, I wrote about a visit from a couple of guys I had met online, Dave Dawson and Casey Langness, a filmmaker and his cameraman who were working on telling storiesof living aboard and sailing. While we were sitting around chatting one evening after the days interviews were done, Dave asked, “Um, you know, I’ve been thinking about how we got here … you didn’t know me, save for a few posts on the internet … and you invited Casey and me into your home and contributed time and energy to our project … how did you decide to take that risk? How did you know I wasn’t another Craigslist killer?”

I thought for a minute about how to articulate what I was thinking, because “intuition,” while true, isn’t a very informative answer. How did I decide Dave was on the level?

The logical side of me did the logical things, I googled him and found a web presence consistent with the story he told about being a filmmaker from San Diego. I looked again at the comments he made in the web conversation where we met, and saw how he handled himself in conflict situations (calm and cool, didn’t escalate hostility). And most of all, he was looking for help doing something I believed in, something I wanted to contribute energy to. I saw that inviting a stranger into my home was a risk, but one that I had taken steps (research) to mitigate, and the remaining risk was a reasonable one to take in order to advance a goal that I shared – spreading the word about living aboard and sailing – and to have a new experience.

I’m lucky to have made a couple of new friends and learned new things, but it’s not just luck. You know the expression “put yourself in harm’s way?” Well, you can put yourself in luck’s way, too. Some kinds of luck don’t just happen … you have to put yourself out there, push yourself, expose yourself and get out of your comfort zone, to grow and have new adventures. Sailing provides so many examples of this, or could be a metaphor for other similar situations in life. The first time we sailed our little boat out of the bay and out of sight of land was scary – and if I hadn’t taken that risk and challenged that fear, I would never have had the experience of traveling to further lands. I could mitigate the risk by studying and preparing and making sure the boat was sound so that I wasn’t taking an unreasonable risk, but there was -- and will always be as with anything in life -- some risk. My first night passage was scary and felt risky too, but if I hadn’t taken that risk I would never have had the opportunity to have the truly spiritual experience of watching the sun rise over the ocean.

That’s the way it is in many ventures – whether in a small boat on a big ocean, or in everyday land-based life. As the old saying goes, to get the sweetest fruit, you have to go out on a limb.

On The Hard. Again.

(reposted from Annapolis Capital)

Originally Posted: August 8, 12:25 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

If you’re a cruiser, you already understand the significance of this photo. P8051115 raising the waterline[photo – in the jackstands]

For everyone else, here’s the explanation. First, notice that this picture, unlike most of the pictures I post of our boat under sail or at anchor someplace beautiful, shows our boat on land instead of in the water. Remember I said we had to be towed back to the marina afterour visit to Cambridge because the v-drive broke again? And we couldn’t figure out why it didn’t stay fixed? Well, the good news is, now we know what’s been going wrong and how to fix it. The bad news is that we’re waiting for parts to fix it right. And while we’re waiting for those parts, we’re “on the hard,” with no refrigeration, no toilet, no air conditioning. InAugust.

I described being on the hard two years ago, when we were getting the boat ready for our first trip south. It wasn’t fun that time either, but at least we picked our weather a bit better.

By the way, how do you get a boat onto dry land if that boat is too big to just pick up and carry like you would a canoe, or haul on a trailer behind a car? Well, one way is that there are some places that have 10-foot tides so you can just go near to shore and wait for the tide to go out and leave you high and dry– Maine or Georgia come to mind. Of course, since our boat has a single deep keel, once the water went out we’d be lying on our side – which would be inconvenient to say the least! And anyway, that wouldn’t work here because we only have 1-foot tides here in the Chesapeake. Our tides aren’t big enough to do the job.

We do, however, have a travelift -- a handy way to pluck a bigger boat out of water. It does just what its name says, travels, and lifts. Here’s the empty frame sitting over the haulout slip in our marina. The slings you see are lowered down into the water below the level of the boat’s keel. Then we brought the boat into the slip, and the slings were raised, lifting the boat out of the water. Next, the frame + boat is wheeled over to the location where the boat will stand while work is being done. And finally, jackstands are put in place to support the boat upright, and then the slings are removed and the frame wheeled away. And here we are.

P8061122 empty travelift P8041113 in the travelift [photos: travelift empty, and with our boat]

Once we were out of the water, marina staff powerwashed the bottom to get the barnacles off. It is nice to know that this part of the Chesapeake is good habitat for something,although not a very exciting something to be sure. Believe it or not, it took only about 6 weeks for this growth on the propeller to form - just since the last time we had a diver clean the bottom! The next thing we learned is that the propeller shaft is a bit loose – it wiggled. I’m not very strong but even I could wiggle it. That smug look on my face is pure satisfaction. Hah! We’re closing in on the source of the vibration that caused the v-drive to fail! Not to overwhelm you with details, but at some time in our boat’s 32 year history, someone “fixed” it the lazy way instead of the right way.* Which came back to bite us, years later. Anyway, we’re on the right track now. The marina staff has been competent in the repair, and communicated well. They even took care of us in the little things, like positioning us where we could catch some breezes and be comfortable, yet close to the workshop. They provided a sturdy and comfortable set of stairs to get on and off the boat. Normally, we use a rickety ladder – climbing up and down that many times each day as we work gets old in a hurry.

P8041095 power wash P8041090 mucky prop[photos: power washing, and a very mucky propeller]

P8041111 wobbly shaft [photo: Aha! The shaft is loose!]

The second thing about that very first photo I showed you? Maybe you couldn’t see it in the original, it’s not very big, so here, I’ll give it to you again in closeup.

P8051117 waterline cu [photo: close up of the waterline]

Well, the green tape masking off the part to be painted is about 2 inches higher than the existing paint. You see, every time we add some weight to the boat, whether it’s a new piece of safety gear or a load of groceries, the boat settles a little lower in the water. And over time, those extra weights add up. Parts that had been painted with the red bootstripe are now underwater, and need instead to be painted with protective black bottom paint. In a boatyard, raising the waterline is a very public statement that over time, we’ve accumulated a significant amount of new possessions. This is kinda embarrassing to admit for the girl who’s all about shedding material possessions. Wonder if I’ll have any credibility left next time I write about downsizing tips?

In any case, with repairs well underway and the heat expected to moderate in the next couple of days, spirits are high here on Life Afloat … er, Life Aground????

*For the tech types: Once upon a time, someone decided to replace the cutlass bearing, but they couldn’t get the old one out, so they just shoved it further up the shaft and put the new one in behind it. But the old one was in the way and prevented the shaft from being properly aligned, so it got a bit of vibration that went on until it shook the v-drive apart.

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